England welcomed South Africa to Twickenham on Saturday afternoon in a mouthwatering rematch of the World Cup final two years on.
Fly-half Marcus Smith landed a last-minute penalty to snatch a 27-26 win as the hosts looked full of early promise but were hauled back by the battling Springboks in the teams’ first meeting since the 2019 showpiece.
England fashioned excellent early tries for Manu Tuilagi and Freddie Steward but were penalised relentlessly and four penalties for Handre Pollard kept South Africa within five points at the break.
The Springboks edged clear in the second half and, after tries by Raffie Quirke for England and Makazole Mapimpi for the Springboks, a Fran Steyne penalty put the visitors two points ahead with six minutes to go. England, though, mustered one final attack and earned a penalty on the 22 that Smith smashed over.
With star youngsters like Smith, Steward and Quirke breaking through across a fruitful autumn, Jones admitted the quest for the 2023 World Cup title hurtles ever closer. Asked if this autumn series represents a new England era, coach Eddie Jones replied: “Yes, we said in the summer that the Lions tour draws a line in the sand, and that you need to regenerate and have a little bit of a rebirth to go to the World Cup.
“There’s some good players coming through but we’ve got some pretty good experienced players too. They feel comfortable within themselves, they want to be together, they want to work together. Our stated aim is to win the World Cup, so we want to be better in the next campaign.”
England 14-6 South Africa, 23 minutes
The breakdown is a proper battles so far, and England are this time the beneficiaries of Andrew Brace’s peeping! Tom Curry is spying a jackal as Bevan Rodd makes a good tackle on a Springbok carrier, but Curry’s attempt is blocked by Eben Etzebeth failing to keep his feet as a latcher. That’s a new law for this season - and Brace is across it, penalising Etzebeth and allowing England a chance to notch three points of their own...
PENALTY! England 14-6 SOUTH AFRICA (Handre Pollard penalty, 22 minutes)
Two England tries, two South Africa penalties. Lively start at Twickenham.
England 14-3 South Africa, 21 minutes
South Africa earn a penalty at the lineout as English limbs stray where they shouldn’t be before the jumper comes to floor, and after Max Malins covers a crossfield grubber for Jesse Kriel well, Twickenham boos as South Africa point at the posts for a second time.
England 14-3 South Africa, 19 minutes
After all the trouble England had with this South Africa defence in the World Cup final, they have largely been able to play as they have pleased so far and twice breached it in the first quarter. South Africa hopelessly misaligned themselves for the break in the lead-up to the try, Steward ghosting into a great chasm as Makazole Mapimpi bit in on three midfield English runners and Willie Le Roux left exposed covering the end of the line. That really was a lovely pass from Henry Slade, though.
TRY! ENGLAND 14-3 South Africa (Freddie Steward try, 18 minutes)
Freddie Steward powers over! He’s a sizeable enough unit the full-back and he takes two South African tacklers with him as he forces free and for the line down the right.
It was sharp from Ben Youngs, making the most of slow ball by spotting a slightly on their heels blindside defensive line, feeding his Leicester teammate and enabling Steward to crash over.
Marcus Smith produces another fine conversion from the tee.
England 7-3 South Africa, 17 minutes
Brilliant attack from England! Henry Slade feigns a carry and produces a magnificent miss pass to Freddie Steward in a gap, and the full-back sends Max Malins down the wing.
Malins shimmies inside a defender and England attack with real momentum.
England 7-3 South Africa, 15 minutes
The ball is starting to bounce the way of the South Africans, England again fumbling in the air.
But a wide pass hits the deck, and though Lukhanyo Am’s apparent knock-on isn’t spotted, Maro Itoje locks his great limbs around a carrier and earns England the ball back. Jonny May’s attempted stab through hits two South African bodies - one of which was accidentally offside. England scrum.
PENALTY! England 7-3 SOUTH AFRICA (Handre Pollard penalty, 14 minutes)
A simple enough starter for Handre Pollard, and the South Africa fly-half gobbles up the three points.
England 7-0 South Africa, 13 minutes
First attacking ball for South Africa and immediately they find space! The ball is worked efficiently to the left with a nice pull-back pass and flat ball combination to put Willie Le Roux into a gap, and a chip ahead puts Jonny May in all sorts of mod, grasping at it like slippery soap and just about able to grasp it...
May is then forced to cling on as South Africa latch on over the top. South Africa point at goal...
England 7-0 South Africa, 12 minutes
Tough competition as South Africa nearly pinch a Jamie Blamire throw to the front, but England just about keep the ball.
But that’s not quite right from Ben Youngs - hooking his box kick out on the full. South Africa will have a lineout inside the England half.
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